Imagine that you attend your church this weekend. You’re in a great mood: your family is healthy, work is going well, and all is right with your world.
You vibrantly sing the worship songs … take notes during the pastor’s message … and feel great about your church.
Then at the end of the service, your pastor stands and reads a letter: he’s resigning … leaving your church forever … after many years of productive service.
He tells you he’s tired … that he’s looking forward to future opportunities … but you wonder what the real story is.
In my last article, I mentioned three reasons why pastors suddenly disappear:
*They’re tired of fighting a handful of antagonists.
*They’re frustrated in their efforts to reach their community for Christ.
*They are tired of being so lonely.
Let me add just two more reasons … even though I could add many more:
Fourth, their family members are hurting because of relentless criticism.
While all pastors believe that God has called them to ministry, many pastor’s wives did not receive that same call. They believe that God has called them primarily to love their husbands and their children. They are willing to attend services and serve in a ministry as long as it doesn’t negatively impact their home life.
But when a pastor’s wife sees her husband unfairly attacked … and she sees the toll it takes on his health and his joy and his walk with God … she begins to pull back from church people and church work.
This scenario alone can cause a pastor’s wife to beg him to quit church ministry.
And inevitably, as a few critics focus on the pastor’s shortcomings, they will target her with attacks as well. They will criticize the way she dresses … whether or not she works outside the home … and how she performs her ministries, among other things.
As these criticisms float back her way, she will be deeply hurt … and such criticisms are meant to hurt.
She’ll pull back even more and strongly suggest that her husband resign. Some may even threaten to leave him if he doesn’t.
But when people start attacking their children … and if the pastor hasn’t left by now, some will … she will shift into protective mode and insist that her husband resign to save their family.
Pastors going through such situations are torn. On the one hand, a pastor once took a vow that he would stay married to the same woman forever. On the other hand, he also went through an ordination process recognizing God’s call upon his life.
When the vow and the call clash, a pastor feels pulled in two directions. If he goes with the vow, he may lose his ministry career. If he goes with the call, he may lose his wife … and possibly his career … anyway.
To save their families, many pastors choose to resign from their positions instead … and the pastor normally won’t acknowledge this factor publicly.
My guess is that when pastors vanish, this factor probably plays a role more than 50% of the time.
Finally, they have been asked or forced to leave by official church leaders.
This problem is now at epidemic levels in the Christian community. Although I’ve read that 1,300 pastors per month are forcibly terminated, it’s safe to say this is true of at least 1,000 pastors per month.
There are so many possible scenarios at work here:
*Sometimes a pastor becomes frustrated with the board because board members focus more on maintenance and money than taking risks to reach people for Christ.
*Sometimes the board becomes frustrated with the pastor because he seems to be tone deaf toward their suggestions and needs.
*Sometimes a board member is personally offended by something the pastor did or said … but never talks to him directly … and gets back at the pastor by leading the charge to get rid of him.
*Sometimes the board becomes convinced they can run the church better than the pastor, so they take shortcuts, trump up some charges, and attack him with every weapon in their arsenal.
*Sometimes the board forces the pastor to resign because they’ve lined up the associate pastor or an interim pastor to preach … while they run the church their way.
Whatever the real reason why pastors and boards stop working well together, when their relationship starts to break down, the pastor will probably be the one who ends up leaving … even if he gets along with every other person in the entire church.
When the pastor stands up to announce his resignation, he probably won’t mention his problems with the board … especially if it affects any separation package he may receive.
Just like baseball managers, elected politicians, business CEOs, and rock bands, few positions in this world come with automatic lifetime appointments.
But for some reason, many of us assume that our beloved pastor will stay at our church forever.
When he leaves, we may grieve for a while, but in the back of our minds, we wonder:
Why did he really leave?
I’ve shared five possible reasons with you.
But if you really want to know, there’s one surefire way to find out:
Why don’t you ask him?